What Does it Mean to ‘Belong’ at Work?
About This Episode
Many organizations find themselves facing a disconnect between bringing awareness to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and actually driving behavioral changes. A key component of enabling these changes is making employees feel like they belong in the workplace, but this isn’t guaranteed. Su Joun, diversity and inclusion scholar and practitioner, professor, and principal at Diversity@Workplace Consulting Group, joins host Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek to share her advice on how organizations can start to drive these behavioral changes, and foster a sense of belonging for all.
The views expressed by guests are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Skillsoft.
What Does it Mean to ‘Belong’ at Work? Transcript
Michelle BB 00:00:07 Welcome to the edge, a Skillsoft podcast for learners and leaders alike. You know this in every episode, we're engaging in candid thought provoking conversations on the topic of learning and growth in the workplace today's episode. We're going to talk about diversity, equity and inclusion. Now I know you're going to say we've done this before, but this topic deserves more airtime. And so I'm really excited to be bringing it here to you today. In our most recent leader camps, we've addressed many aspects of DEI, but today we're going to focus on the topic of belonging. What does it mean to feel like you belong at work for many it's about feeling included, feeling welcome, feeling confident that you can bring your whole self to work and perceive equity, including pay and fairness, which is about opportunity and in the eyes of your colleagues, your managers, and your organization, senior leadership, it's about making sure that you feel like you matter.
Michelle BB 00:01:07 You know, I read a recent study by Deloitte in which 79% of respondents said that fostering a sense of belonging at work is important to their organization success in the next 12 to 18 months. But when we think about all the work that must be done around diversity, equity and inclusion, this concept of employees feeling like they belong well, it's not necessarily a given. So let's consider these stats from Deloitte 2019 state of inclusion report, nearly two thirds of employees surveyed had experienced bias in their workplace. In the past year of those workers, six in 10 said they experienced it at least once a month. And most notably, these acts of bias happened while other employees were watching in the course of a Workday. So I have to wonder when that happens, do people speak up on behalf of their colleagues? Do they know what to say or how to take action?
Michelle BB00:02:00 Do they feel confident that they have the resources to understand discrimination and bias in the workplace and know how to serve as an ally? And until everyone knows what to say and do, I'd say we have a lot of work on our hands because for many employees feeling like you belong, can't become a reality until entire organizations, challenged, bias and end discrimination. And until we build policies and cultures that make everyone feel included and valuable for who they are, I recognize these are difficult topics, but we have to engage in conversations like the one we're going to have today. And today's guest is a passionate champion for starting these difficult conversations. And she brings a wealth of expertise on how to help organizations listen, learn and act. Sue John is a principal at diversity at workplace consulting group and innovative implementation, focused consulting and training organization centered around diversity and in the workplace. Sue, welcome. And thank you for joining us on the air.
Su00:03:03 Thank you so much. It's a pleasure to be here.
Michelle BB00:03:07 Why don't we start? Why don't you start actually by telling our listeners a little bit about you, your organization, and the kinds of work that you're doing at diversity at workplace, and perhaps you can share a bit of your own background and what motivates you.
Su00:03:21 Absolutely. Uh, again, pleasure to meet you. All. My name is Sue. My pronouns. Are she her and hers and our organization diversity at workplace consulting group. Exactly does what the name says. Uh, we work with organizations to diversify their workforce, uh, to create equitable processes and to make sure that they are inclusive norms in every day, uh, work. And that's what we do. And we work with many different organizations across many different industries. And my background really comes from having done this work and led diversity and inclusion and recruiting and talent development and associate engagement. Um, inside organizations, uh, was really became passionate about doing it, um, with many different organizations, um, and seeing the different industries and the different cultures and use the different cultures and the different industries, uh, to make an impact with diversity, equity and inclusion. So that is my background, really the main reason why we all decided to, uh, have our own consulting businesses really, because we realized a lot of organizations focused on awareness, but stopped right there. And didn't really focus on behavioral changes and process changes and everyday norm changes. Um, so, uh, that's why we decided to do this work on our own.
Michelle BB00:04:50 I think that's fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. And I wanted to talk about some of the perhaps challenges that you've observed, but you just identified them, right? So it seems as if we start to build the types of programs that generate awareness, we understand that there is a challenge, but then what are we actually doing to drive the kinds of behaviors and processes and norms that, that drive real change. So when you, when you're talking to companies, what is it that is preventing them, perhaps from moving ahead from going beyond that awareness piece,
Su00:05:31 You know, often companies come to us saying, can you help us with diversity, equity and inclusion? And really the question can be, should be, what can we do? What can we change to advance diversity, equity and inclusion? Um, and what I mean by that is sometimes for example, organizations can say sometimes even have it on their walls, have it on their websites. And then as part of their mission statement that we want our employees to bring their true, authentic selves to work well, that's a great statement, but then you have to ask yourself, well, how are you making that possible? Um, so imagine if you are an employee and you see that as a mission of an organization, we want everyone to be their true, authentic self, but yet at the same time, be given advice on how to be successful here, which is the exact opposite of being authentic, for example, and knowing that a lot of times, tips that we get for being successful does not match our authentic self. So a lot of times where on eggshells or we're literally faking it in order to, um, uh, play the part so that we can be successful. And that goes right in the face of, um, belonging, as you described at the beginning of this program,
Michelle BB00:06:49 It's a followup to that. Where does it start then? Because you just identified this conflict between what we say and what we necessarily, what we need to do. So we always say it starts at the top, but does it really start at the top? Is that, you know, is it that, that leadership level executive leadership who needs to be the driving force behind this, or is it really born out of what employees are looking for and are they driving the kinds of change? Yeah.
Su00:07:21 Question has been raised, you know, raging on for decades. And really the answer is all of the above. This work cannot happen without leadership support resources and sometimes permission. And this work can not go if there is there, isn't the desire and the grassroots passion from the employees. And it goes nowhere without the know-how and the actual action of the middle management. So it takes all levels, not just any one of them. And I think too often, we only stop at one of those levels and don't reach the other two.
Michelle BB 00:07:55 And that makes sense. And so as you think about it, and this may be a challenging question because, you know, I will say this in the wake of, um, the murder of George Floyd, we had a number of customers come to us and say, I need help. We are not having the right kinds of conversations. The training we have is not good enough. And so they really wanted to be able to navigate the topics of bias and discrimination in the workplace, through the lens of this social injustice movement, uh, or I'm sorry, social justice movement that was happening, you know, in society. And so I think that, you know, when you look at it, we see organizations that are looking for guidance in the here and now, what can I do? How do I get started and, and who owns it? Because we know that, for example, in some cases we have, um, chief learning officers or chief human resource who are now being tasked with figuring out how to drive a new DEI program or policy. And is that really the right way to do it?
Su00:09:04 Yeah, let's, uh, let's unpackage all of that. So I would say there's a package. There are a lot of different things happening at the same time, but, um, first I would say it used to be that it was considered too risky and unpredictable to talk about race and racism at work, right. It was uncomfortable. And it was something that was sort of avoided. And those of you who have been in the workplace a long time like myself, you know, it wasn't that long ago where we said, leave politics at home, leave your, you know, your social issues at home, leave your personal life at home. And it's all about work. And now it has all blurred. And so for many of us, it's uncomfortable to talk about those things at work. So we have to remember that, and let's also be very Frank. It wasn't that long ago that we were, as leaders told to be colorblind.
Su00:09:58 And now we're told to be color aware, and that's a, that's an expectation shift that we really must acknowledge and, and realize that that, that expectation shift has happened. And you're asking people in human resources who have been trained to mitigate disruption, to be equipped, to have these types of conversations at work. So you could only imagine it's it's many different things and shifts happening at once. Um, so first I would say it is, I believe riskier not to talk about race at work nowadays, because if you're not talking about it, people are making their own assumptions about how this organization feels about it. And even if you made an incredibly bold statement on your website, in the wake of joy, Florida, George Floyd's murder, people may still be very much waiting to see what the organization does. How is the organization willing to live up to the board statement that was made?
Su00:10:59 So I do believe it's riskier not to talk about it. The other part is, I think we often say, you know, we want everyone to feel safe talking about it, but it's really not safe to talk about race at work. The only way to create safety, isn't just to keep telling people they're safe, but it's actually to create a certain designated space structure and good facilitation around it because we feel safe. When we know we have someone who's going to manage all of this while we talk about it, we feel safe when there is a clear start and end time to this conversation. And when there some clear rules of engagement, the safety comes from predictability and structure. So if human resources or the chief learning officer or the leaders, or whoever is looking, do this, as long as they create the structure and permission to speak and the predictability and strong facilitation, it's actually, uh, not as risky as people may think.
Michelle BB 00:12:05 I love that. And I will tell you that at Skillsoft, we have worked, um, internally, we recognize that we didn't have that space nor did we have the structure. And we have since put it in place. And, uh, we have a group of people who are coming together to have really meaningful conversations that then extend into how can we help our entire workforce. And I will tell you, it's been an amazing experience to be a part of
Su00:12:34 Perfect. And we have to make the assumption that not everyone is willing, ready, or want to talk about this. Either. We all deal with things in different ways. We are all impacted to different degrees. Um, so I think there should be an understanding that it's a volunteer. People come if they wish people share, if they wish and people listen to learn. I think that's the, that's the mantra. If we could have the mantra of share and listen to learn, not to convince, I think that will go a long way.
Michelle BB 00:13:09 So I want to shift for just a moment or segue we're talking w we are absolutely talking about belonging and inclusion, but I think that we can't address this topic without looking at the mix diversity upfront, right? So we all know the aphorism. You can't be what you can't see. Um, do you believe that companies are doing a better job of welcoming, diverse talent at all levels within their organization? And, and I would assume that there's probably work that still needs to be done, but if so, what are the areas in which you see that we still need to improve?
Su00:13:47 I think more organization want to be diverse and more than ever. Have they gotten better at making that happen? Um, I think this is the moment where we're going to know that we don't quite know just yet, but the desire is stronger than ever. And I think people understanding that it's not as easy or as hard as they may have once thought. I think, I think we're now at that tipping point. Um, so a few things that I think organizations can do to be more successful at recruiting and retaining diverse talent is, um, is the following number one, stop looking within your own network. A lot of people say I can't find diverse talent and that's because they're looking within their own network. And, um, and, and there's quite a bit of data that shows that as a society and as a workforce, we have a tendency to have similar people, our network.
Su00:14:52 So naturally when you look around, you're not going to see diversity. Um, for example, there are statistics that show about, uh, 90% of white Caucasians hanging out with other white Caucasians, about 80% of black African hang out with other black African-Americans, for example. So naturally networks tends to not overlap. So I would say the first thing is, look outside your network. Second thing is, um, and I'm going to be very blunt. Here is we have a tendency to want diverse talent, but in this way, we want people who act, behave and work just like us, but come in diverse packages. And when we do that, we're only letting in very few exceptional talent that we feel comfortable with into our organization. And that kind of, of of thought process. And we don't even know we're doing it right. It's, it's that kind of expectation. And that process, there's a sort of, uh, uh, saying that we only let extraordinary people of difference in the rest.
Su00:16:03 We sort of keep out. Um, and if we can't get over those two phenomenons of looking for our diverse talent, but once that are just like us, um, or feeling like we only should let in extraordinary people of difference in unless we get over those two things, um, that we're not going to be able to make a lot of difference. And then the third thing I would say is we can't expect the people who are coming into the organization to do all this. Similarly, we have to change the organization itself to be welcoming, accommodating, open, and actually have practices, norms, and processes in place that would allow all people of difference to be successful, not just come in, but actually be successful because if you're successful, you will retain,
Michelle BB00:16:56 Okay. That is so insightful. And I'm sure everybody is listening to this going, Oh my God, right? I mean, because there's, there's a little bit of self-reflection that we have to do on this topic. And sometimes that's hard to do because we have to look at ourselves and be very critical about the things that, you know, w we may have the best intentions, but, but to your point, are we really only looking at people? Sure. They may have some differences, but really they're a lot like us. And I think that's a really hard thing for people to acknowledge and then accept. Yes,
Su00:17:32 Absolutely. Because I often hear two things. I can't find diverse talent. And then the second thing is, but I want the best person qualified for the job and best person qualified for the job is probably the most subjective statement anyone can make and best qualify for a job. Um, dr. Robert Livingston just wrote an article for Harvard business review that talked about looking for the best qualified for the job. It's like looking for a unicorn. It doesn't really exist. I mean, if you think about it, even sport organizations do all this work and scouting and benchmarks and metrics to find that, you know, uh, the best players and even some of them work out and some of them don't. So to assume we know who is the best qualified for the job is an incredibly subjective statement. That actually is somewhat unfounded because we, none of us have had a hundred percent track record with recruiting, right. Um, and some have worked out and some haven't. So, uh, I think putting those two statements together, I can't find diverse talent and then saying, I still want the best qualified for the job. When you put those two sentences together, you're saying I only want the best diverse people. And that itself is very subjective.
Michelle BB00:19:01 I have to think that you're not trying hard enough. You're not looking far enough and you're not, you're not perhaps reaching out to places. Again, we, we only want to go to certain universities when we're looking to bring in new talent, but we have to think differently about where and how people are getting an education, where and how they're getting their skills. And you can look at programs like IBM's P-TECH for example, where you've got private enterprise that is helping people in underserved communities, get the skills they need and be ready for the jobs of today and tomorrow. But yet that's not the traditional way in which we go out and find new talent.
Su00:19:42 Absolutely. We tend to look in the same places, uh, within our network. A lot of organizations have referral programs, for example, uh, which causes us to find and hire the same group of people. And to be honest, they tend to be relatively successful because our infrastructure is set up for those groups to be successful. Um, and really what I'm saying is we not only have to take a look at different places to recruit, but I'm saying we have to fundamentally change the way we look at talent. And the best way to explain this as is, um, I often equate diversity inclusion to diet and exercise, not to minimize the importance of it, but in a lot of ways, we know the things to do. We just don't do them on a day to day basis. And we're expecting results while doing the same things we've always done.
Su00:20:41 So for example, you know, a few decades ago we found meat and potatoes and butter was, was the healthiest diet. And now we know that we have to start looking at food and nutrition differently, right? I mean, some are looking at different types of diets. Um, there are so many different opinions about what is the best nutrients for your health and so forth. So we have to fundamentally look at talent in a different way. Um, uh, in other words, best talent is now defined. It has to be defined in so many different ways, not just in terms of different schools they may have gone to, but do they even need those different degrees? How much experience matters? Does it have to be experienced in your own industry? Does it have to be that you have to see the kind of traits you think you have to see to know qualifications of person?
Su 00:21:35 For example, a lot of people, a lot of times people say, I want someone innovative and driven, well, innovative and driven. Uh, the qualities that you, uh, you see may not necessarily be people who are fast talking extroverted, fast walking people, right? We tend to think that the fast talking fast walking people are driven folks that is not the case. My husband is an introvert and he's actually a slow Walker, but he is probably the most driven person I know. And so making assumptions about certain traits we have to see to meet certain qualifications is not sound. And we have to really reevaluate the way we evaluate talent.
Michelle BB 00:22:19 I love that. And I love that you are allowing us to think maybe a little more critically about the things that, that, you know, when we think about DEI policies. When we think about trying to recruit, we think about all these things, we kind of have a general, this is what we do, but we need to be more critical of the ways in which we do them. So as we go out and look for talent, what are we doing differently? As we bring people on board, into our organizations, what are we doing differently? Because I would then probably imagine that the way that we onboard new talent into our organization has to shift
Su00:22:58 You think about succession planning has to shift all of those things. And, uh, absolutely those things have to shift. I think we've been focusing too much on, we're not actively and deliberately excluding anyone. I have to make that assumption. And, and so now it's really about how are we actively, including people? What steps are we taking to actively include? Not, not the fact that we're actively excluding that I'm going to make the assumption. No, one's doing that anymore. Um, so now it's really about how we actively include,
Michelle BB 00:23:31 I love this notion of active inclusion, and I think it's a great way to be thinking about it. I wanna, I want to switch gears because we'd be remiss. Look, I'm sitting here in my house. I I've introduced you probably to my pets. They're over there, right? This is new for us. Um, I would imagine too, that in your efforts most recently, and you've talked to customers and clients who have come up against challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic era, and look COVID has highlighted even greater inequities in our society. The CDC noted that race and ethnicity, they are risk markers for other underlying conditions that impact health. But, but here, you're also talking about things like socioeconomic status access to healthcare, increased exposure to the virus due to the potential occupation. Right? And so, as we think about the people who have been most impacted, a lot of times they are underserved and or minority population. So as we think about that as another layer, how do companies not only address diversity, equity, inclusion, policies, and training, but now ensure the safety and wellbeing, physical and mental of their employees during this challenging time, which has disproportionately affected certainly groups. There is so many different things. And I don't actually think we could address them all here today. Uh, but, but, uh, but, uh, it's an excellent question that is worthy of a longer answer I suspect than we have time for, but let's at least, you know, attack it in, in, in these three ways. Number one is, um, realize that yes COVID has limited us, but it has also made it incredibly open and freer to hire people regardless of geographic location. So for example, in now we know people who work remotely are effective and we can get over this sort of a geographic barrier that has existed. So it's no longer that your area that you're looking for diverse talent in your own region, you're now looking for diverse talent across the whole country. So that door has opened quite wide for you. So please leverage that, that, that opportunity, uh, doing COVID days, um, and realize that in this virtual working space, you now have a broader geographical locations to look at.
Su00:25:54 So that's number one, number two, absolutely realize that COVID has impacted your workforce in different ways, and people are having different experiences than the one you're having. So for example, um, some of us may be fortunate enough to have a separate room where you could close the door and have conference calls all day. Um, and some of us maybe if watch enough to have video on all day, but don't assume that everyone can have video on all day to make sure you give them some advance notice because some of us may have children or loud neighbors or pets, or we have a lot of family members and being video on, take some extra preparation work, um, then, then, then just turning it on. So just remembering everything from something as simple as video on could depend on situations. And I would say the third thing is realizing that there is some of us who has family who have family members and friends impact a COVID on a day to day basis.
Su00:26:56 I was talking to a colleague, he told me 13 of his family members have been directly impacted by COVID. So he's showing up to work with all these things on his brain and, and on his emotions. Um, and, and he may show up to a meeting without showing any of that. Uh, but we have to make the assumption that there are so many of those things happening behind the scenes, all along with the recent events of the election. Um, along with the recent events that have highlighted, um, everything from, uh, racial inequities, not only from a healthcare perspective, but also from, uh, police and from social and systemic structure perspective. So there is so much taxing on our associates brains, uh, that we have to be aware of. And then the last thing I would say is, and kind of wrapping all of that. Here's the fact that we have defaulted to what makes us most comfortable.
Su 00:27:59 We have retracted to what makes most comfortable during these COVID days. What I mean by that is, um, when there is a crisis as human beings, we tend to stick with the tried and true. And there are studies that are showing that during COVID days, we are 40% more likely to interact with work people we always interact with, and 10% less likely to interact with people. We don't normally interact with that work. So what I mean is those silos and those relationships are more segregated than ever before, because Y there's there's no chance you and I will, oops, run into each other in the hallway and have a sporadic spontaneous conversation. There's no chance of us running into each other in the parking lot. Everything has to be scheduled, uh, which means that we're not able to interact with our colleagues, um, more than, um, were used to. So we have a tendency to, we have a tendency and we are defaulting to more interactions with people and colleagues that we would normally interact with and less likely to interact with people. We normally don't. So I would say we have to make an, an effort to proactively include by scheduling quick little check-in meetings with different people than ever before.
Michelle BB00:29:12 It also sounds like we need, need to give people a little bit of grace, not understanding necessarily what their situations are. And, you know, I think that that entering with these assumptions, that everybody is having the same experience that we are, it prevents you from having that empathy that you might need to have in that next meeting, being empathetic or being understanding, or just acknowledging because, you know, one thing that really hit me and thank you by the way, for, for referencing this, but early on, um, even on my own team, I'm like, Hey, you know what to get together. Cause this is something we need to do. We're going to have cameras on, we're going to have this policy and we're gonna, you know, so that we can see each other so that we can engage. And by the way, it was with every, it was with positive intentions only.
Michelle BB00:29:58 And one of my colleagues in India said, that's not going to work for all of us here because we don't necessarily have the ability to shut off rooms or, you know, find a quiet space. And so it may be that video on policy, isn't going to work all the time. And it was the first time that I took a step back and realized that I was viewing my team through the lens of what I have here. And I have to be honest, it took me aback and made me think harder about how do I create more of a sense of belonging even in my own team.
Su00:30:37 Absolutely. And it goes all the way to everything from video on to, um, uh, assuming when we say speak up more, that a person is equipped and feel comfortable doing that all the way to, when we say let's all go out for a drink after work, um, even before COVID days, not everyone may be able to do that or feel comfortable doing that. Um, you know, I think it's a matter of really reexamining our norms and realizing that our norms, I, not everyone else's norms and not everyone may thrive in our norms. And, uh, too many times we've asked others to lean in and if they lean in too much, they break and crack. And what we're saying now is every side has to lean in.
Michelle BB 00:31:22 I kind of want to take that now and move on just a little bit, because when we talk about diversity, sometimes I worry that at a societal level, we have these predefined notions of what it means to have a diverse workforce. And I wonder if we are placing emphasis in certain areas, whether it's ethnicities, race, gender, but maybe perhaps we're not looking at other areas of focus, for example, people with disabilities. So my, my question to you is this, how can we build a culture that welcomes the skills and talents and perspectives of other populations of workers that is truly inclusive of people, for example, with intellectual developmental and other types of disabilities, because your point about going and having a drink after work is one that might not feel so comfortable for somebody who is very committed to a routine and something outside that routine is not going to work well for them.
Su00:32:17 Start with this one particular statement and, and go into, um, uh, your question, um, which is that's remember when we increase access for one population, we actually increased access for everyone, uh, to give you a quick example, as you know, it's, it's, it's the law that you have, um, access ramps or handicap ramps as they're called to into buildings. And that was really designed to allow people with different physical abilities to actually have physical access into the building. Um, but I will tell you that it's not people with, uh, physical difficulties that are using them, right. We all use them. We use it when we have a baby carriage, we use it when we have luggage, we use it, you know, all those buttons we push to automatically open doors. Those of us who are worried about germs, use that for, for all of that.
Su 00:33:10 And the point is while it was designed for a certain population, designing handicap, physical access, ramps, and access points into buildings has increased accessibility for everyone. So the point I'm trying to make is diversity equity and inclusions. The, the efforts that you put in not only impacts one demographic, it actually increases access to everyone. Um, and you know, for people with different abilities and disabilities, the average cost of accommodation is $500 fairly low. And if you think about the fact that people with disabilities are really the lowest employee demographic of any demographic there's studies, that show that there is more negative bias against people with disabilities and different abilities than race and gender combined. And if you take out seasonal work and part-time work, their employment rate is lower than 40% employed. So once you know all this, um, not to mention that people with different abilities may not even be disclosing themselves at work, which means we are already employing people with different abilities and disabilities already. And knowing that it is the hardest hit demographic from a workforce perspective, we really do have to start once again, like we said earlier in this program, we thinking what we mean by best qualified for the job.
Michelle BB00:34:49 Absolutely. And I know our time is starting short, so I promise I won't, I won't keep you too much longer, but I do want to touch on your upcoming leader camps as part of Skillsoft series on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. And you're going to host two live learning events that are open to everyone at every organization and at no cost. And I want to make that clear because we want everybody to have access to this information and we will share the details on the landing page. So when people sign up, they'll get more information. So, uh, on this podcast at first leader campus in December, and it's about advancing meaningful diversity in the workplace, the second is in January, focusing on removing systemic bias from organizational culture. Um, and for both, we're going to dedicate a significant amount of time to open candid Q and a, which I think people really are going to love. But you know, when you think about what you want people to walk away with from these sessions, what's most critical, what is it that they're going to take away? That's going to help them right now?
Su00:35:50 I'm glad you mentioned, uh, about, uh, having ample time for questions is, uh, uh, I've always find that, uh, people get talked at, um, and they hope that what they wanted to know is covered. Uh, and sometimes it isn't sometimes it isn't. So it was very important for us that we have ample time for questions so that people can ask them and take away what they need. Um, I would say the number one takeaway or there's a few first is realizing that there is something that every organization of any size at any point of journey with diversity and inclusion, there is something that you can do. So really realizing it doesn't necessarily take a huge budget or, or a future project or initiative. There is something that everyone who tunes in can do on an individual level, on an organization level. So that's takeaway number one, takeaway number two, I'm hoping people walk away with is realizing there are things that you're doing right now.
Su00:36:48 That's creating inequities and recognize if not, just adding on things to what you do. It's actually taking a look at the things that you are doing that are creating inequities and actually recognizing and fixing them. So that's the second thing. Um, and then the third thing is to, uh, realize that the barriers and challenges are not out there, they're actually right here in your organization in the way you do things and that you could remove them. And there is so much that you can do to not only find diverse talent, but look at your recruiting process to bring in diverse talent, but also allow your diverse talent to be successful in the organization. But also to create that sense of belonging, because I've heard people say I've never felt so alone while being surrounded by like-minded people. And that is what we're trying to solve for, you know, uh, creating that sense of belonging. You know, you have every right to be there, but that little question of do you belong there and do people really want you there? That is something I think we could address and really create with sense of belonging work. Um, so I would say those three takeaways, I'm hoping people come to the leadership, camping, and, uh, and, and take away those three things.
Michelle BB00:38:10 I know that people are going to be so excited. We've had record participation in our previous leader camps. And I think that this now takes it a step further, right? What can I do here in now to create this inclusive environment? And what is, what, what can I as an individual? Because oftentimes we think it's somebody else's role, or it belongs to a different department, but in reality, we all have a responsibility right. To within our own organizations. So final question, it's a three-part or just so you know, but it's something that I've been asking my guests across all podcast episodes in one of these days, I've said it numerous times, I plan to write an entire blog post report and, or hold a podcast on this because it's fascinating because for many people with whom I've spoke, the pandemic has allowed us, has forced us to think about things differently, right?
Michelle BB 00:38:59 So we have shifted our perspectives. Many people have taken up new hobbies. They found that they actually have more time and therefore, um, are using that time in so many unique ways. And so I've asked my, my guests throughout the, this question and the responses have been fascinating. So I want to hear your thoughts. So it's a three parter. Number one, what have you started to do since the onset of the pandemic that you just didn't do before? Number two, what have you stopped doing? And you are so grateful that you did. And then three, as we strive for, I think what is a, normally a, we keep saying new normal, but I don't know if, if it's, if it's still novel at this point, but what are you going to continue to do? What are you going to take with you out of this experience? So it's start, stop, continue.
Su00:39:51 I think for me, it's been a journey. Um, when the pandemic started, what I found that I started doing is, is that I was doing all sorts of things to distract myself from reality and numbing myself, meaning I ate more junk food than I ever did before I watched more junk TV, um, and YouTube videos than I ever did before. It was just a constant need for distraction and numbing myself, just, just kind of keeping myself emotionally and intellectually occupied until we get through this. Once we all realize it's going to be more than a couple of months, once we realized that I became incredibly more mindful about what I was eating, what I was watching, how I was spending my time and very quickly, right. As I noticed and recognized that I found out I actually have less time than ever before.
Su00:40:54 Uh, it turns out in our virtual world, our meetings are filled with more zoom virtual meetings than ever before at work while we don't have commuting. We, uh, people who are scheduling 8:00 AM meetings and 5:00 PM meetings and 12:00 PM meetings with the expectation that people are available because they're at home. So I find that I actually had, uh, less time. And so, uh, right as I was realizing that I had to be more mindful, I realized that I had less time, which made me incredibly more aware. And so TJ about what I say and no to, and ever before, like I literally pause now before I say yes or no to anything, I take some time to actually really think about it. So I am even more protective than ever of my time and energy. What I don't miss is traffic. I absolutely, uh, it has been wonderful, uh, going from place to place with that traffic.
Su00:41:56 And it makes me envision, can we, can we actually just make this kind of how it is, uh, there's this whole sort of not having traffic during rush hour. Um, and what will they continue to do is, um, I'm enjoying sort of this all attention to one thing at a time. For example, when we're doing a, uh, when I'm doing one-on-one with someone, I find that I am just kind of focused only on them at that moment. There is no other physical distractions. There's no one dropping by my office. There's no, you know, other things happening. So I'm hoping to continue that focus. You can give to individuals one at a time. I'm hoping to keep that with me. Uh, even when we are all in person again.
Michelle BB 00:42:43 I really, really love that. And thank you for being so insightful. And thank you for being such an amazing guest on this podcast. The time flew by, I am so eager for us to, um, bring these leader camps to bear, because I think they're going to be incredibly valuable to all to our listeners. I want to thank you for tuning into this. And every episode as we unleash our edge together on behalf of the entire Skillsoft team, we encourage you to keep learning, keep growing and in light of our conversation today, think about how you're going to make a difference in your own organization, how you are going to be that individual that helps create a greater sense of belonging for someone else. I'm Michelle BB, and this is The Edge. Be well.
About Our Guest
Su Joun (she/her/hers) is the Principal of Diversity@Workplace Consulting Group LLC that specializes in innovative, implementation-focused (“the how”) diversity & inclusion (D&I) training and consultation. She has taught Global Human Resources, Organizational Behavior and CareerLaunch classes at Suffolk University and has presented on D&I proven practices and cutting edge concepts to the Boston Bar Association, Hawaii Young Healthcare Professionals, Underscore Core Summit, and Harvard University Women in Business Social Impact Conference.
About Our Host
As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global marketing organization, focused on transforming today’s workforce for tomorrow’s economy. Since joining the company, she has been responsible for Skillsoft’s global marketing strategy, which includes generating awareness, driving preference, and building affinity for Skillsoft. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – Michelle serves as the company's brand evangelist, helping to build a vibrant community of passionate learners.
With more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle has made it her personal mission to support the advancement of women in business. Prior to Skillsoft, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of IBM Watson, where she was instrumental in developing the first “Women Leaders in AI” program, which honors women who put AI to work across industries and around the globe. She also served as the global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies understand how to anticipate, plan for, and ultimately make better decisions – with greater confidence – in the face of weather.
Michelle is a prolific speaker on a range of topics, including the war for talent, digital transformation, and marketing in a post-pandemic world. She covers these topics and more as the host of Skillsoft's podcast, The Edge, now in its second season. She has authored countless papers covering a range of business and marketing topics, was at the center of Skillsoft’s leadership role in DEI through free “Leadercamps,” and has taught two Percipio courses on the Pink Pandemic and Public Speaking.
Michelle is also a founding member of CMO Huddles, a group dedicated to bringing together and empowering highly effective B2B CMOs to share, care, and dare each other to greatness. Michelle holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.